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Ceremonial sword  (eben)
Date: Late 19th century
Medium: Iron
Dimensions: H x W x D: 105 x 23.1 x 16.5 cm (41 5/16 x 9 1/8 x 6 1/2 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Glen Rhodes
Geography: Benin kingdom, Nigeria
Object Number: 2002-19-3
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Object is not currently on exhibit

The eben is a fan-like ceremonial sword associated with the court of the oba of the Benin Kingdom. In the same form it can be seen in today's court and in the famed cast copper alloy architectural plaques and figures that date back to the 16th century. It is raised aloft and twirled by courtiers honoring the king and his ancestors; and even tossed by the king himself in concluding the ceremony in honor of his predecessors.

Flat, iron leaf shaped blade with a central rib flanked by triangular cut outs, the bladed edge bordered by a row of diamond cut outs, with a twisted stem shaft that ends in split curls surrounded by a twisted loop handle.

Glen Rhodes, McLean, Virginia, -- to 2002


Chief S.O. Alonge: Photographer to the Royal Court of Benin, Nigeria, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., September 17, 2014-July 31, 2016



IYARE!: Splendor and Tension in Benin's Palace Theater, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, November 1, 2008-February 28, 2009


Hurst, Norman. 1997. Ngola: The Weapon as Authority, Identity, and Ritual Object in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cambridge: Hurst Gallery, pp. 8-9, no. 2.


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